Media Consolidation Is Bad For Everyone

Bill Moyers produced an excellent segment on media consolidation and its disproportionate impact on minorities. African Americans and Hispanics account for over a quarter of the population, but own just 33 of the nation’s 1,350 television stations, and only 6% of radio stations. According to Melody Spann-Cooper, owner of Chicago’s only black-owned radio station:

Radio has moved from being in the business of empowering and educating people to Wall Street, to making money. And that’s not the big corporate conglomerates, you know, that’s not their fault. They were allowed to do this.

This is the fault of government who did not put the proper checks and balances so that this could not happen.

A tsunami of consolidation overwhelmed the industry in the wake of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, sweeping the price of an FM radio station to over $200 million. Six media companies, Time Warner, Disney, Viacom, CBS, General Electric, and News Corporation now control the vast majority of the country’s broadcast networks, television stations, cable channels, radio stations, magazines, newspapers, publishing houses, and film studios.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin thinks they should be allowed to own more. Moyers speculates that Martin wants to pass media consolidation by the end of the year to keep the issue away from the Presidential campaign calender. Even pro-business Republicans oppose consolidation; Trent Lott (R-MS), the Republican whip in the Senate, is leading the fight against consolidation with North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan. According to correspondent Rick Karr:

There’s no constituency out there saying we want more consolidation. It’s essentially just the big media companies. There are no citizens groups out there saying we want more of this.

The FCC’s proposal is currently open to public comment. Over two million people submitted comments last time consolidation was before the Commission, a strong indicator that the public cares about who controls the public airwaves. The Senate is also preparing its own effort to derail consolidation ahead of the Commission’s proposed December vote.

Transcript [Bill Moyers Journal]
Comment On Media Ownership Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Docket – 06-121 [FCC Electronic Comment Filing System]
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